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Project: Exposure to welding particles and effects on the cardiovascular system and the lung

Exposure to welding fumes in occupational settings occurs frequently in Sweden and worldwide. Welders have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease as well as lung cancer, however, the levels of exposure to which these risks are present have yet to be determined. We currently work on two major studies that are interrelated.

Cardiovascular effects of welding fumes

In 2010, we enrolled welders and controls, all male non-smokers, in southern Sweden; we characterised them for exposure to particles and performed medical examinations. We found that low-to-moderate exposure to welding fumes can be a risk factor for hypertension. Moreover, our data indicate that welding fumes cause premature ageing of the cardiovascular system, possibly by increased oxidative stress from the high metal content of the welding fumes. By contrast, we did not find signs of other suggested mechanisms for particle-related cardiovascular damage. We now re-examine these welders and controls to validate our findings and quantify the effects of welding particle exposure on the cardiovascular system, as well as to explore mechanisms of action, by using a longitudinal approach. We collect information about medical and occupational histories from the welders and controls, measure their heart-rate variability and endothelial function, collect blood and urine samples for measurement of markers of premature ageing and oxidative stress, inflammation and the one-carbon metabolism, and markers of coagulation.

Effects on the lung

The overall aim of WeldCancer project is to clarify to what extent today's welders are at risk of lung cancer as well as to understand the underlying mechanisms. We will evaluate the effects of short term exposure to welding fumes in a controlled chamber study as well as the sub-chronic and chronic effects using two longitudinal welding cohorts. We will sample blood, urine and nasal lavage and evaluate biomarkers of effect (immune proteins, oxidative stress, DNA damage, epigenetic changes). In addition, we aim to use proteomic approaches to identify novel biomarkers of toxicity. In parallel we will use 3D in vitro models of the small airways and toxicogenomic approaches to identify novel mechanisms/pathways of toxicity that will later be validated in situ in lung cancer tissue samples.

Our approach will address novel hypotheses, clarify the interpretation of previous studies, and assist in risk assessment to improve advice to welders on the safety of working with welding fumes.

Contact person

Karin Broberg, Professor
Anda Gliga, post doc


  • FORTE - The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare

Selected publications